Pay-Per-Click Advertising: 3 Strategies to Up the Urgency & Boost Sales

By Matt Lawson, VP of Marketing, Marin Software

Every retailer knows that urgency sells. The “one-day sale” or “20% off this week only” promotions are a mainstay of retail marketing — enticing shoppers to take advantage of limited-time offers. But while these messages work well in email, print, and TV campaigns, retailers have struggled to incorporate these “urgency messages” into their online advertising. With search marketing, in particular, managing urgency campaigns has proven very difficult, especially when a retailer’s search program spans millions of keywords.

As a retail marketer, how can you incorporate urgency messages into your paid search advertising programs? What language works to drive the highest level of “buy now” activity? And, most importantly, how can you effectively manage the use of limited-time urgency messages in paid search programs that span millions of keywords?


One key tactic that merchants are now using to insert urgency messages into search campaigns is leveraging Google’s “ad parameters” feature. This relatively new feature is designed to allow advertisers to dynamically insert and automatically update up to two numeric or currency parameters in each ad creative. By linking your database to Google’s API, you can update these parameters in your ad creative on the fly — presenting searchers with current information about product availability, pricing or limited-time promotions. But most importantly, Google’s ad parameters feature gives you an effective way to automatically insert “up to the minute” messaging in thousands, or even millions, of your search ads.

Here are three concrete strategies retail marketers can take to harness the power of urgency in their paid search marketing campaigns.

  1. Promote current pricing: First and foremost, make sure your urgency messages promote your most up-to-date prices. Presenting sale pricing up-front increases the appeal of your ad, driving higher click through rates. More importantly, by presenting accurate pricing to searchers, you avoid attracting (and paying for) clicks from shoppers interested only in bargains. An example of a price-promotion ad might be: “Cashmere Sweaters: On Sale This Week Only for $35.”
  2. Stay on top of stock numbers: Scarcity is an urgency message that works well to increase sales; shoppers are more eager to complete purchases when you have little inventory left. Try incorporating information about the number of products left in stock into your product-specific ad groups, then dynamically update the quantity of items remaining in stock based on actual availability. An example of a stock scarcity ad might be: “Hurry! Only 10 Left in Stock: Get Yours Before it’s Too Late.”
  3. Up the time pressure: Limited-time offers are a great way to encourage shoppers to buy now. Including a “number of days left” message in your paid search ads will drive shoppers to make purchases sooner rather than later, and can also help you align your search campaigns with offline promotions. An example of a time-sensitive ad might be “Only 2 Days Left to Save 25% off All Purchases!”

Urgency works to boost sales. After all, no one wants to miss out on a good deal. By successfully leveraging Google’s ad parameters feature, you’re well on your way to encouraging more shoppers to take the purchase plunge.

Matt brings a breadth of online marketing, web analytics, and search experience to Marin Software.  Prior to joining Marin, Matt served as VP of Sales and Marketing for Spock Networks, a leading people search engine.  Matt has also held sales, marketing, and product leadership positions at Coremetrics, one of the early innovators in web analytics and online marketing automation.

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